About two weeks ago, it was reported that 50 million Turkish citizen's information has been breached, and the point was made that personal data breach must become an emerging issue with greater public awareness (DS NETS 4/25/2016). Unfortunately, MacKeeper Security Researcher Chris Vickery reported that 93.4 million Mexican voter database was available on an Amazon cloud server without any authentication and open for public access. (4/22/2016) Mr. Vickery did a wonderful job by notifying proper authorities in both the US and Mexico, and thankfully there is no evidence that the database was accessed by a malicious party. Unfortunately, this incident highlights not only the incompetence of the Mexican government in allowing such data out in the wild but also how easy it could have been for a malicious party to obtain and exploit the database of an entire country.

According to databreaches.net, based on a redacted information provided by Mr. Vickery, the Mexican voter database include "the individual’s name, complete address, date of birth, mother’s and father’s last names, occupation, and their unique voting credential code (number/identifier)." (4/22/2016) If the database was obtained by a malicious party, then every Mexican citizen in that database will always have to face the risk of identity theft potentially for the rest of his life.

What will be the Mexican government's response? Hopefully, the response will be more substantive than a simple three-year identity theft protection from a private company. (Which was the US Federal Government's response)

Citizens around the world must be aware of the inherent risks posed by massive databases and hold government and companies accountable to the fullest extent of the maximum possible damage the data breach can affect the potential victims. A simple three-year identity theft protection is not sufficient as the malicious party with the information can either wait three years until committing identity theft or simply sell the information to a more malicious party (including hostile foreign governments).

Most of the data breaches either stem from honest mistakes by the IT department or laziness of the involved individuals from implementing steps to secure the database. The fact that this database was out in public in plain text points potentially to the latter and forgotten by those responsible for leaving the database on the Amazon servers.

This incident should not have happened.

Almost two months from today, I have written about the Syrian conflict, suggesting that the US and Russia should consider "setting up a United Nations security zone in Syria which is under the United Nations Security Council's jurisdiction." (DS NETS 2/29/2016) Since then, Turkey has been hosting around 2.7 million refugees.

During her visit to a refugee camp in Turkey, Chancellor Merkel has shown support for establishing safe zones within Syria, which has been supported by Turkey. (Deutsche Welle 4/23/2016) Such safe zones, in theory, could provide stability in parts of Syria to deter Syrians from making the arduous trip towards Europe. The United Nations warned against the idea unless security for the Syrians within the safe zones can be guaranteed.

While it is a welcoming sign that Chancellor Merkel supports the idea of a Syria safe zone, the fact that the Chancellor merely has shown support of the idea is disappointing news. The Syrian conflict has shown no sign of significant progress, and the international community has not engaged in any substantive and transformative initiatives in providing the immediate humanitarian need for Syrians living in conflict zones. Chancellor's mere support of the safe zone idea signifies that such initiative has not been planned beyond a skeletal idea.

The main moral question world leaders must ponder is this: Why is it taking so long? Granted, there are world politics impeding fast UN policy implementations, but the Syrian conflict has been ongoing for several years, including the time of the sudden expansion of the Islamic State. If world leaders are unable to quickly address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, they either should abdicate from power or withdraw from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World leaders should not take this long to respond to the crisis in Syria.

In 2015, the US government suffered a severe breach in cyber security after the government found out that 20 million personnel records from the Office of Personnel Management were accessed by hackers. (The Washington Post 7/9/2015) The data breach was considered critical, because it was highly likely that every individual that applied for security clearance since 2000 was exposed to the data breach.

Despite the severity of the breach, the news did not gain significant traction as the Presidential race began to dominate the news media. Unfortunately, another severe data breach as occurred in Turkey, and the news has not spread sufficiently in major US media, despite the news story being a few days old. Even the New York Times and the Washington Post merely posted an AP or Reuters article online without bothering to write an original, in-depth article exploring the Turkish data leak. [The New York Times Screen Grab at around 3:30 PM EST 4/9/2016] [The Washington Post Screen Grab at around 3:30 PM EST 4/9/2016]

It is reported that the personal information of about 50 million Turkish citizens have been breached, and the entire data set has been hosted online. (Euronews 4/6/2016) The database includes names, address, national ID numbers, parents' full name, and date of birth. This data breach heightens the threat of identity theft for virtually all Turkish citizens. While the Turkish government is investigating the data leak (Yahoo with AFP 4/6/2016), the hackers seemed to mock the government by exposing the faux security mechanism the database.

Despite the increasing incidents of data leaks, the topic of data breach seems to not entered into the major public discourse. Due to convenience and efficiency, most of the public's sensitive information are stored electronically, and guarding the information against malicious hackers has become ever more important. It is critical to have increased public awareness of data breaches, and the public must hold companies and government officials accountable whenever such data breach occurs.

Simply offering a free three-year credit monitoring and anti-identity theft service (This was US government's response to the OPM data breach) is not sufficient in addressing the post-data-breach concerns. Once the personal data is out in public, the victims are at risk potentially for life.

The ambassadors from NATO and Russia are expected to meet after nearly two years of suspension of high-level cooperation caused by Russia's annexation of Crimea. Meeting in Brussels, the ambassadors are expected to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the security situation in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that "no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law." (Deutsche Welle 4/8/2016)

The high-level meeting gives the opportunity to decrease tension between NATO and Russia and even perhaps prevent past military tragedies, such as the Russian fighter downing near the border of Syria and Turkey, due to miscommunication in conflict zones.

While Russia's annexation of Crimea brings question on Russia's violation of international law, NATO has failed to protest Russia in a substantive manner. While economic sanctions and cutting off high-level ties might have weakened certain sectors of Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seemingly acting with full autonomy in foreign policy.

The meeting of NATO and Russian ambassadors comes right before the European Union's failure to pass a trade and cooperation agreement with Ukraine due to Dutch voters rejecting the referendum. (The New York Times 4/6/2016) The rejection of the referendum potentially signals a weak public support for policy makers to push back Russia.

Instead of pushing back Russia, NATO's realistic option is to focus on stability in the Ukraine-Russian region instead of competing Russia for securing political and economic influence in Ukraine. The longer the Ukraine conflict drags on, more civilians become inevitably the casualty of war. Furthermore, once Russia sees Europe's cessation of planting western influence in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin might consider standing down his anti-NATO forces along the Russian border.

The United States have historically allied with dictatorship regimes (Dealing with Dictators: Dilemmas of U.S. Diplomacy and Intelligence Analysis, 1945-1990) in order to secure US national interests abroad (The Secret History of the American Empire). One of the major reasoning for supporting dictatorial regimes have been keeping other superpowers in check, and in today’s international politics the main US rivals are China and Russia.

Supporting dictatorial regimes can induce a cognitive dissonance for the American citizens, because the core principles and values Americans most cherish are being denied by those regimes that the American government openly supports. Why does the American government support regimes that act contrary to American values? Is such support merely a means to our ends of securing national interests? Such questions might haunt the moral consciousness of American foreign policy makers in the years to come.

What about an existing American ally that has been in a pathway to a shining democracy but yet is seemingly heading towards a dictatorship? The New York Times reports that President of Turkey Erdogan is jailing the members of the press for publishing stories that are critical of the President (The New York Times 3/7/2016). Western media outlets have been covering the story, but the US and European governments seem to be staying silent on the issue with good reason.

At this moment, Turkey plays a critical role in the Syrian conflict. The European nations need Turkey’s cooperation on the migrant crisis, and the US needs Turkey in the war against the Islamic State. President Erdogan holds immense influence on the Turkey’s government to cooperate with the US and European allies on these issues. There could be a danger that if the US and European government openly criticize President Erdogan's move against the freedom of the press, Turkey might threaten ceasing cooperation on the Syrian crisis.

Doing nothing will guarantee that all of the Turkish media would be puppets for President Erdogan, and maintaining the freedom of the press is crucial in protecting Turkey’s democratic institution. A democratic Turkey is important for being the model for other Middle East countries that are striving for democracy on their own.

President Erdogan has the opportunity to secure Turkey's democratic future by reversing his policy in arresting oppositional press, and the US and European leaders have the chance of encouraging President Erdogan in taking the right path for his country.

Besides, instead of jailing journalists, debating the oppositional press in an open forum might be more effectively electorially for President Erdogan. Isn't the chance of making the oppositional press appear as fools more appealing in a fair, democratic atmosphere than simply silencing the critics?


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